Connected vehicles are expected to boost demand for ethernet in the car (Photo: NXP)

Connected vehicles are expected to boost demand for ethernet in the car

Automakers in Europe and North America are set to use more ethernet in their cars, as automotive architectures adapt to the demands of more consumer electronics functions. A study by analysts Frost & Sullivan predicts that, starting from almost zero today, premium vehicles will have more than 100 ethernet nodes by 2020. Mass-market cars will have 50 to 60 and entry-level vehicles will have 10. The global market for ethernet ports is expected to reach 300 million by 2020.

"Ethernet could serve as a backbone to the electronic architecture connecting domains and sub-networks for in-vehicle applications," said Frost & Sullivan Automotive & Transportation Research Analyst Divya Krishnamurthy. She added that other connection technologies lack the specifications to meet demand for high bandwidth and scalability. "This is highlighting the need for a common network that can support several in-vehicle require- ments," Krishnamurthy said.

The growth of automotive ethernet is fueled by connected cars, automotive app stores and connected location-based services, as well as by the need to integrate new driver-assistance functions and consumer electronics devices. Frost cited growing interest in audio and video applications such as camera-assisted parking, lane departure warning systems and collision avoidance technologies. Traffic light recognition also requires high-speed ethernet.

Automakers are continuing their work on an ethernet-based system architecture, which Frost said is a "time-consuming, research-intensive, and expensive process." But the researchers said success will make the efforts worthwhile because stan- dardized ethernet platforms offer benefits in terms of cost, performance, interoperability, upgradability and faster time-to-market.

In 2011, automakers and suppliers founded the non-profit OPEN Alliance Special Interest Group, whose goal is to make Broadcom's BroadR-reach Ethernet technology a standard solution for in- fotainment and telematics. BMW and Hyundai are among car- makers planning to adopt more ethernet connectivity in their cars.

Frost's Krishnamurthy said ethernet will give a boost to new automotive business models such as bundled subscription services, incremental services and pay-per-use programs for automakers and other industry players. Said the Frost analyst: "It will also open doors for innovative products like autonomous driving and application domains inside the vehicle."

By Arjen Bongard

(EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was first published in the March edition of the automotiveIT International Executive Report)